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Executive function

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Evangeline Nortje

on 15 June 2017

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Transcript of Executive function

= higher order mental processes and behaviours that assist in self management, and management of the resources available to you in order to achieve a

Goal directed behaviours
goal-directed behaviour
is such a critical aspect of
, in the next section we consider in more detail a variety of
that are invoked when working toward a goal
subprocesses of
goal-directed behaviour
initiation of behaviour
more frontal lobe tasks...
patients with frontal lobe damage =
often socially uninhibited & display socially inappropriate behaviour
central role for working memory in executive function
plays major role in different aspects of EF...
Development of PFC
Prefrontal cortex is the
brain structure to develop both
Development of EF
7-8 months
Starts showing working memory
Executive function
providing a road map for life...
assimilate new information &
use it to modify plans as the need arises
assess the effect of each decision and estimate its relative worth
social skill and political savvy, as well as a general ability to get along with other people
executive function describes a
family of related abilities
& the
set of cognitive controls
that help people appropriately
respond & tackle
the typical
challenges & tasks

of daily living
These neurological based processes are divided into two main subdivisions:

Self regulation
allows a person to have self-awareness
and to understand the relationship of the self to the environment
initiation of behaviour
the ability to reflect upon a cognitive process
'cognition about cognition'
working memory
The ability to guide behaviour toward a goal is not one simple task, but rather is multifaceted
making a cheese & tomato sandwich...
easy task?
difficulty observed in patients with executive dysfunction referred to as
In physics,
= the tendency of a body at rest to
stay at rest or a body in motion to stay in motion unless
acted upon by an outside force
Patients with executive dysfunction are poor at
an action or a behaviour
individuals with executive dysfunction may know the components of or steps in a process, they are unable to put the steps together in a coherent manner to achieve a goal
...making an omelet
Such difficulties also extend to
i.e: unable to determine which of 2 items in a sequence occurred more recently
shifting set & modifying strategies
The path to a goal is not always a simple linear progression; we often encounter some unexpected twists and turns
Self monitoring & evaluation
How am I doing?
Another skill that is important for attaining a goal is the ability to evaluate whether your performance is actually bringing you closer to your goal...
critical aspect of goal-directed behaviour is the ability to override or interrupt processing
The ability to stop, interrupt, or abort inappropriate responses, often referred to as
response inhibition
Say these words as fast as you can:

Cat Dog Dog Cat Dog Cat Cat Dog Cat
Now say it when you see the pictures:
Say the
word of what you see:

Cat Dog Dog Cat Dog Cat Cat Dog Cat
Say the
word of the picture:
Creation & Maintenance
of a Goal or Task Set
basic prerequisites for meeting a goal
= the ability to stay on task
Executive dysfunction
= “wandering off task”
Brain area's involved in EF
Frontal lobes =
the "executive" of the brain
there is unlikely to be a one-to-one mapping between a particular piece of frontal cortex and a specific function
Different tasks or processes that have been found to be supported by somewhat distinct prefrontal regions
appears to be relatively more reliant
medial prefrontal
Creation & maintenance of a goal or plan
relies on many regions of prefrontal cortex,
cortex being prominent among them
The ability to
items also appears to rely on
dorsolateral prefrontal
is supported by a large number of
regions, including
dorsolateral, inferior,

of responses involves the
right inferior
Phineas Gage
"wasn't Phineas anymore"
agreeable & patient
= personality changes
= inability to modulate behaviour
People with frontal lobe damage often display
poor judgement
combination of emotional & rational reasoning provided by frontal lobes
inability to recognize
of actions
working memory
= working memory plays a central, prominent
role in executive function
Frontal-lobe maturation progresses in a back-to-front direction

beginning in the primary motor cortex (the precentral gyrus)

and spreading anteriorly over the superior and inferior frontal gyri

with the prefrontal cortex developing last
Constructed from MRI scans of healthy children and teens, the above images portray 15 years of brain development (ages 5–20).

Red indicates more gray matter, blue less gray matter. Gray matter wanes in a back-to-front wave as the brain matures and neural connections are pruned.
Time-Lapse Imaging Tracks Brain Maturation from ages 5 to 20
Frontal lobe development
3 years
Onset to inhibit disadvantageous decisions
6 years
Paying attention becomes intentional
Manipulate and integrate intricate information
once engaged it, they may have great difficulty
it =
psychological inertia
Company executive
must be able to translate goal into specific actions
master plan
make reasonable judgements
projects the company
image & serves as
the spokesperson
flexible &
responsive to
sequence &
keep track of multiple tasks simultaneously and understand the relationships among them, knowing which should come first and which should come second
Skills & attibutes
shift / flexibility
emotional control
problem solving
monitoring & evaluation
short tempered & irritable
frontal lobes have also been implicated in judgment and decision making
Full transcript